I spent the past week at our Missouri Ranch location (Miller Bison at Elkhead Ranch). If you’re familiar with our operation, you may know that the owners of NebraskaBison.com own and operate two separate ranch locations–the home ranch in Adams, Nebraska where the business began, and a second ranch near Springfield, Missouri which has allowed Randy and Jane to expand their operation and their herd.
Last week our Missouri ranch location was the site of a ranch tour for bison producers from all around the United States and Canada as part of the National Bison Association’s Summer Bison Conference, so I was able to spend some time down at the ranch as everyone got ready for the company.
Lucky for me, the summer conference coincided with calf season here at our ranch. I’ve worked for Randy and Jane for four years now and this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to be around when calves are getting ready to come.
It was a very awesome experience seeing brand new bison calves less than 24 hours old and learning more about the calving process. Driving through the pasture, Jane would point out the moms that we’re just about ready to calf. She can tell by their backside, as it gets very swollen, she’s even able to predict that a calf will come that night. When I arrived on the ranch, there were currently four calves and by the time I left there were seven.
The last day I was out on the ranch, we went out into the pasture to check on the calves. Upon reaching the group, Jane quickly realized we had one more calf just born. The calf was so new that it was still laying in the grass next to her mom and you could still see the afterbirth from the mom. We knew that this calf had just come very recently.
A few things I’ve learned about the process of bison calving this past week (and over the last few years):
1. When a bison cow is about to birth, her backend will swell up. You can definitely tell which cows are pregnant, and you can also definitely see when the calf is close, if you know what you are looking for. Jane is a pro at that.
2. When a bison cow is ready to give birth, she will generally find a spot away from the herd to give birth alone. Once the calf is born and up and walking, they will rejoin the herd.
3. As with all new moms, bison are very protective of their calves.
4. Baby Bison Calves are a beautiful cinnamon color.
5. New bison calves will be up on their feet very soon after being born. I was able to take video of a bison calf who had just been born the previous night who was already up on their feet and following mom everywhere.